LEFT, LAST DAY OF SCHOOL hugs by students at St. Thomas School, Delmar. Middle and right, students are all smiles at a summer camp sponsored by St. Thomas.
LEFT, LAST DAY OF SCHOOL hugs by students at St. Thomas School, Delmar. Middle and right, students are all smiles at a summer camp sponsored by St. Thomas.

My wife and I both spent our entire lives in the Midwest — until four years ago. We relocated to Delmar so that I could continue my medical training as a cardiologist.

Moving a thousand miles away from any family or friends seemed very daunting at the time. We immediately began attending our neighborhood parish, St. Thomas the Apostle in Delmar. I began volunteering as a lector and ­eucharistic minister.

Instantly, we were welcomed by the parishioners and felt a strong sense of community. Our daughter Anna attended Sunday school during Mass and began to build a network of friends and acquaintances.

When it came time for our daughter to begin school, my wife and I discussed our options at length. Living in an excellent school district, we had multiple options to consider as to where we should send Anna for her education.

My wife grew up in public schools in a top school district and received an excellent education. However, she felt that her religious education was lacking. Her schools were so large that she never felt a true sense of community.

On the other hand, I attended Catholic schools from first grade all the way through medical school. Throughout my life, I have been amazed at the sense of inclusion and genuine compassion of the people by whom I have been surrounded. Twenty straight years of Catholic education provided me with the faith-based experience that has molded me into the man, father and physician that I am now.

After many discussions about the pros and cons of our options, we chose St. Thomas the Apostle School. We wanted our daughters to have a faith-based education where Catholic values were at the forefront of everything they would learn. They would learn math and science no matter what school they attended, but the morals, values and importance of service to others would be best acquired in a faith-based atmosphere.

As parents, we know that the values we teach our children at home are paramount to molding them into the young people we will be proud to watch grow up. We also realize that our children spend significant time away from us at school. They learn as much from their friends and teachers as they do at home.

After just one year at St. Thomas School, we are already witnessing the added benefits of our daughter being surrounded by countless exemplary role models at a Catholic school. Each Monday, the entire school starts the day with a prayer service. They leave this service to begin their week singing a song with the lyrics, “Go make a difference in the world.” I can’t imagine a better motto to start off a week.

Anna has helped stock the church food pantry, made crafts and cards for the families at Ronald McDonald House, and brought home new songs and prayers to share with us. She has also learned so much about faith and God in one year. When she sees something beautiful, she tells our two-year-old how God made it. She also makes sure to ask us why God made certain bugs that she finds disgusting!

Along with our normal prayer before dinner, she insists on saying the “Hail Mary,” too. As inquisitive as young children are, anything that seems “different” raises questions. Anna tells us that these differences are because God created everything to His liking. This inclusive, instead of divisive, nature of thinking has been taught at home and reinforced at St. Thomas. We are thrilled to see faith beginning to play a part in her everyday life. We know that, even when she is away from us at school, the same values and morals we believe in are being instilled in her.

Our family has gained the sense of community we were seeking when we relocated to an area with no friends or family. Through St. Thomas, we have made countless new friends with similar goals of raising our children to believe in God and to live by the Golden Rule to “treat others as you wish to be treated.”

I have frequently been asked why I chose to pay extra for Catholic education when our neighborhood public school was excellent. My response is that I consider it an investment in my daughter’s future. Anna just completed her first year at St. Thomas the Apostle School, and we couldn’t be happier with the return on our investment thus far.